Critic Attacks Clemson's Required Reading for Freshmen

July 17, 2006

It’s a hardy perennial of the summertime: A college or university draws criticism for its choice of required reading for its incoming freshman class. A few years ago, the target was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which was attacked for assigning a book on the Koran (The Chronicle, September 6, 2002) and, a year later, a book on life as a low-wage worker (The Chronicle, July 11, 2003).

This year, the target may be Clemson University, just 250 miles south on Interstate 85. Clemson has assigned freshmen to read Ann Patchett’s best-selling memoir, Truth & Beauty: A Friendship, but a member of South Carolina’s Commission on Higher Education says the book is too racy for his taste, according to the Associated Press.

Clemson officials are sticking with their choice. Students will be required to read the book in order to write about it and discuss it in August, when Ms. Patchett will be the speaker at freshman convocation.